Category Archives: Innovation
With some tipping Google Glass to further evolve change our day-to-day experiences, DT’s creative technologist and Glass sceptic Tim Devine found some surprising results after a week with the device.
In a kind of tribute to Steve Mann, the father of wearable computing, and so that I might have at least something of an informed opinion on the subject, I wore Google Glass for a week — everywhere, all the time. For thirty years Mann has worn far less sophisticated versions, so I figured it couldn’t be that onerous, and if I was to give Mann and Glass proper shrift nothing less than full immersion would do.
Aside from my Mann crush, as a creative technologist and practicing media artist my work has at times suffered from crushes on various technologies. There is something wonderful about expectations for a new technology — beyond the new toy anticipation the potential for a leap to occur, even if only in the imagination, is sufficient to begin all manner of feverish speculation.
My relationship with Glass as a technology reminds me of a girl I was seeing a few years ago. While crashing on a friends couch in Brooklyn after an epic romance and break up I noticed a card that read, “I will always cherish the initial misconceptions I had about you”. Love is blind but temporarily.
So the question this led me to suppose was do our relationships with technologies form in a similar way to our relationships with people? A hot flush at the beginning, fading slowly to something you could reasonably take for granted but pine for when you’re apart, replace with the new and shiny, or even do away with altogether?
A few weeks ago I found myself, a youngish creative technologist, contemplating an arranged marriage with Google Glass. Our agency, DT, was fortunate enough to acquire a couple of sets and as I run the creative technology lab I felt obliged to engage.
To be honest, if I could solve a brief with a single fold in a sheet of A4 paper I would. I’ve spent years trying to neutralise the effect technology has on me, while endeavouring to deeply understanding it — when a technology like this is pre-released and inevitably polarises the community, it ends up shrouded in media hype, shrill denunciations and misrepresentative guesswork in the rush to be earliest non-adopter.
The most useful commentary comes from direct experience no matter the device. So I flipped the SIM from my iPhone 5 into a Nexus 5, (Glass needs to be tethered to an Android phone) and strapped on Glass for a week.
Wearing Glass is like dating a celebrity
All week I scored free drinks and double takes as I went about my everyday. It was with me everywhere — driving, golfing, the beach, cycling, the cinema, a rooftop bar, work, watching a band, a restaurant, rock climbing and importantly while I lay hungover in my lounge room hammock. I didn’t skydive, fly a stunt plane, frolic with reptiles, trapeze, sword fight, juggle fire, ice sculpt, own a catwalk, hot air balloon or figure skate — though I was ready for it all, Google.
Glass brings voice interaction into a far more functional context. You have to give over to it, to the point where it sounds like you’re talking to a puppy — very conspicuous if there isn’t a puppy around. If you enunciate, and the sound environment is at a reasonable level, it’s pretty good.
Halfway into my week I found myself engaging in conversation with other computer generated voices, similar to accidentally swiping a non-touchscreen, or mentally pressing “Command-Z” when you pour salt instead of sugar into your tea. In a most illustrative case I was in the part harried, part dazed condition induced by self-checkout in the supermarket.
When asked if I wanted a receipt I accurately turned to face the machine and robotically, in perfect oral formation, enunciated “No. (Pause) Thanks.” Under normal conditions I’m as irritated and diminished as the next person by the automated voice of those machines yet here I was naturally, if automatically, having verbal exchange with one as I would any corporeal service entity.
Fear of blinking in bathrooms
Glass is great for capturing content by voice or wink detection. It’s some kind of wonderful snapping photos with the wink of an eye. Every time I posted something to Facebook it was tagged ‘via Google Glass’, and shot from my 203cm perspective. The result is a peculiar kind of kink in the cultural and visual aesthetic to the content glass captures — it will always be shot from slightly above and outside your right eye, though I eventually figured out how to take a selfie without looking at a mirror. I did find myself trying to warp my neck or body for the best shot, but generally I took photos with a quick wink. If you wish to you can imagine my cold, blinkless disposition while I line up in a bathroom at the rooftop bar.
Being unusually tall I’m used to people compelled to ask questions about my experience up there. With Glass I’ve added an entirely new set of icebreakers. Mostly I found myself looking awkwardly out of windows on trams so as to not to have passengers opposite feel like they were in my camera’s field of view. Maybe there will be a mechanical shutter door in future releases to alleviate this awkwardness. Or better still, maybe we need a new type of necklace that emits powerful infrared light visible only to Glass and not the human eye, blowing out all photos taken with Glass, like a kind of urban camo! Tech, counter tech.
Google Glass sits somewhere between the hype and a hands free bluetooth headset with a screen/camera
My original view of Glass was that it was a thing you wore all the time and that it would more or less replace your phone. Personally I wouldn’t wear it all the time. In the Glass Explorer forums there are countless tips on when it’s appropriate to wear it or how to avoid confrontation — like a dojo really. That said, it’s been 24 hours since the end of my experience and I’ve caught myself peering longingly up to where my Glass once satiated my visual cortex… I miss it… if only a little.
Some people will love Glass and wear it all the time (afforded the excuse to wear prescriptionless designer frames). For others maybe it’s a part-time screen, with similar utility to a hands free earpiece. Either way Glass, or some other brand of face-screen coming soon, is definitely going to be part of our mediated life.
Tim Devine is a Creative Technologist at DT.
This article was originally published on mUmBRELLA.
Photos by Nik Janev.
It’s fair to say almost everyone who works in the creative industries has a side project incubating in their dreams. But DT strategist Athan Didaskalou has actually made his happen with the launch of Three Thousand Thieves, a monthly coffee subscription. Every month he and his team hunt down and curate Melbourne’s best artisan roasters, and deliver the coffee straight to subscribers’ doors.
Like all the best ideas, it was prompted by first-hand observation. Whether it’s fetishising the humble brunch or waiting two hours a night for a new dessert degustation pop-up, Melburnians have a passion for food culture and love to discover and try new things. And in turn, that creativity is expressing itself in how we cook. But Ath realised this sense of discovery never really extended to the coffee we make in our own kitchens.
“When you make coffee at home, it’s often only ever with the one blend from the one brand,” he says. “It’s either purchased from a place close to work or home, or, you have an emotional bond with that brand and that’s why you continue to purchase it.”
But playing it safe means missing out, because Melbourne is a coffee-roasting hub. Rarely do you find so many artisan roasters within a city, Ath says. The problem is that their exposure is often niche. “Three Thousand Thieves acts as a marketing tool for these niche brands, exposing themselves to a larger coffee loving audience. The result is connecting Melbourne’s best roasters to an audience who were still stuck buying Lavazza by empowering them with local knowledge and lowering the barrier to try it.”
Before DT, Ath had been in hospitality his whole life, including at a small coffee roaster in North Balwyn.
Of course, having the insight, passion and the experience means nothing if you don’t get the idea off the ground. Though he realises he is not the first person to discover this, launching a business was actually a lot harder than he anticipated. “Essentially, I became my own worst client. All the things I usually recommend to in my day job came second on my list of priorities. I obsessed about sales, packaging, reducing costs, identifying the right suppliers, and at the same time ensuring these factors kept my business model profitable.”
But he has found that the clients he works with at DT enjoy talking shop with him. “It’s been great to discuss accounting issues and marketing efforts with clients who give you their own opinions about what works and what to focus on.”
Now those same DT clients have become some of Ath’s first customers. And so have his bosses, who love his idea. “DT harbours a culture of entrepreneurship, and working in that environment definitely rubs off on you,” Ath says, though he could just be saying this to suck up. (He admits to using the company printers “once or twice,” thanks to DT’s supportive MD Brian Vella.)
How does he juggle working full time and doing all this on the side? He’s built some balance directly into his business model. Since it’s based on a monthly cycle, Ath and his sister Anthea print and pack the orders over the month, and dispatch the coffee the day after it’s roasted. That means the workload is spread out and, touch wood, there are only a few late nights. “With the right business model, you can do something a little fun on the side and maintain your sanity.”
What’s next? Ath would like to grow Three Thousand Thieves organically. Interestingly, he identifies the biggest area for growth as the ‘curation via subscription’ business model itself. ”Melbourne has such a unique food culture: the people, the flavours, and the opportunity to dabble in diversity is limitless. I want to connect that with the digital world, and get more people involved with the passion for food in this city.”
Can traditional ad agencies stop making people want things and instead make things people want?
Or are they doomed to eke out a sad, non-innovative living til start-ups and service design firms and agile young collectives with nonsense names and bearded 20 year old CEOs finally crush them for good?
Three good posts and a long comment have reignited the debate over “saving” ad agencies this week.
I get it. There are overheads to be paid. But that doesn’t keep an agency from evolving and coming up with its own way to optimize, inspire, and contribute to society (or just have some fun). Putting aside funding for internal projects, hackathons and ownable IP with specific incentive to pitch and bid for investment is something some agencies are now putting into practice… It’s the art of bringing people together for a product that takes on any form (the physical, digital, hyper-real, analogue, mobile, paper, experiential, cinematic, interactive…) that an agency can do better than any start-up or tech company.
Likewise, service design and innovation consultant Matt Edgar believes agencies are now uniquely placed to make good and useful stuff, arguing that Ad agencies are discovering product like Columbus discovered America.
…advertising people understand, more than any other tribe, that needs do not have to be rational. In the pursuit of Making People Want Things, any fragment of culture, art or fashion is fair game. They understand that sometimes fast and different beats slow and better. While the product tribe labour methodically towards feature-based superiority, their counterparts in advertising throw so much mud at the wall that sooner or later some of it must stick. Superior access to rapid funding, boldness in exploiting adjacencies, a willingness to try lots of stuff – all of these are supremely transferrable to the iterative, customer-centred practice of Making Things People Want.
But he finishes with a warning: “Making things is hard, especially things to last, things that people will find useful in their everyday lives.” It requires long term support, very different to the normal campaign-based cycles of agencies.
Then cold water was splashed on the debate in this long comment by Jules Ehrhardt, partner of design studio ustwo, who doubts agencies can get ever their acts together to genuinely make stuff, aside from in rare cases like Nike Plus.
There is close to zero chance to any of the big guns [agencies] pulling ‘product’ off without completely gutting and refitting themselves, which would take till 2020 if it was even possible, by which time their model will begin its extinction cycle. Ad agencies are dinosaurs in terms of size, agility and long term prospects. They had a blast in the Triassic (50′s to 80′s), a boom in the Jurassic (90′s to 00′s) and now we are at the start of the Cretaceous (2010 to 20??). We are witnessing them lumbering towards extinction as the environment around them changes and slowly starves them of food.
His entire comment is worth reading because it’s fluent, harsh and funny.
But overall it felt like reading something from 2009.
Do people still believe that ad agencies are “dying”? It feels like the term “traditional” agency is thrown around a lot, even now, but what precisely are we talking about when we mock them?
And even if an agency is traditional (has surnames in its name?/has a foyer full of print campaigns?/not everyone has a beard?/their specs have actual prescription lenses?), these days its ranks are being filled with people who are anything but. Josie Brown writes of the young people coming to work in advertising:
When it comes to being at the helm for the next big thing, today’s new talent has huge role to play. They don’t remember their first email address or mobiles and they don’t recall their family’s first PC – these grads have innovation built in. They inherently turn to it, they aren’t intimidated by it and they definitely do not consider there to be a difference in new media to mass media.
Now it’s 2013, it seems silly to talk about “agencies” like this in the abstract, and still more silly to pronounce their death.
Anyway, the last post we wanted to link to is by Phil Whitehouse from DT. Called A platform for adaptation, in it he reframes the debate as not as the silly and extreme “how can agencies survive,” but rather “how can agencies can adapt and thrive?”
What’s needed is a structural platform for adaptation; the ability for organisations to anticipate trends and spot groundbreaking new technology, and develop capabilities to respond quicker than the competition. What’s needed is the resources, the processes and the attitude that can deliver for this new era.
Smart and simple, we recommend you read this whole thing.
Malcolm Gladwell’s job applications were turned down by 14 advertising agencies in his native Canada. Lucky, because since then he’s busied himself with The Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers, and – today – the best talk so far at Cannes Lions.
Here’s Malcolm’s talk, recreated from notes in as close to his own words as possible.
Should we care about being first or not? In our culture, all the glory goes to the person who’s first: in science, the person who discovers something first gets the Nobel Prize; in business, the patent; and I just read Keith Richards’ autobiography so I know that coming first in rock and roll means you get to sleep with thousands of girls.
But we don’t need to be first. We need to be third.
Consider the case of the 1982 Bekaa Valley fight between Syria and Israel. The PLO had moved into Southern Lebanon and made Israel nervous; Syria moved into the Bekaa Valley and put missiles near Israel’s border. Israel attacked the Syrian Army in what was known as the Bekaa Valley turkey shoot, knocking out 17 out of the 19 surface to air missiles and shooting down 39 Syrian planes on the first day alone. The next day, they took out another missile and 27 more planes.
The lopsided military engagement continued: the Israelis made brilliant use of drones to take perfect photos of what they wanted to attack. They made use of the most modern airborne warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft to orchestrate the most complicated mixture of planes, overwhelming the Syrians so much they were almost too scared to fire their guns. And they used precision guided missiles. Back in Vietnam, these missiles hadn’t been accurate, but the Israelis were using missiles that were 90% accurate, which is why they could shoot down a total of 87 Syrian planes with a loss to their own forces of only three.
A crushing advantage over their competitors, an astounding victory – one that everyone would look at and say “that’s what we want to be.”
But Israel were not the inventors of a single thing they used in the 1982 war.
The Soviets laid out the future of Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) in the 1970s with brilliant long term thinking. All the technology was actually American, developed during Vietnam. The Israelis weren’t first. They were third.
You can see why the Soviets, the US and Israel all did what they did by looking closely at their culture.
The Soviets had a centralised, bureaucratic and intellectualised military, basically a thinktank given time to ponder deeply the future of war. Russian culture values holistic thinking, and values the person who takes time to step back and think and this is what they did.
The US has a highly decentralised military – Marines, Air Force, Navy, Army all with different HQs and leadership who don’t talk; all with ties to the highly innovative private sector. It makes perfect sense that Americans would be best at coming up with new gadgets.
The Israelis’ previous military experience was the 1973 Yom Kippur War, where they experienced a huge first day loss due to surface to air missiles fired at them by Egypt. It devastated the strategic advantage of their air force, and they scoured the earth for the answer to this problem so it never happened again. Russia’s thinking, America’s weapons and technology. They put these things together in a brilliant way, and that’s how you get the Bekaa Valley turkey shoot.
Russia and the US show us that being good at one thing means you are necessarily bad at another. Russia can’t innovate because they are centralised and slow. The US is decentralised and innovates brilliantly in partnership with the private sector, but can’t tie it all together because it’s so decentralised.
The thing that made them the best at one thing is what made it impossible to do it properly. It imposes a cost on first.
Xerox PARC was a beautiful modernist building, filled with a huge staff of geniuses, staff with high salaries given the task to “imagine the future of the office.” They came up with laser printing, Ethernet, the modern personal computer, and the graphical user interface (GUI).
One day they were visited by a 24 year old from down the road in Cupertino: a young man called Steve Jobs. “What’s this?” he asked. “That’s a mouse.” “What’s this?” “That’s an icon.” At that time to use a computer you had to type in and execute a complex command. The GUI and the mouse changed all that. Steve Jobs started jumping up and down with excitement. “Why haven’t you done anything with this?” he cried, and ran back to Cupertino where his engineers were working on the Lisa. “Stop everything, we’re using a graphical user interface. I want a mouse!” And that was how the Macintosh was born, the breakthrough that has launched Apple on its trajectory ever since.
Xerox built the culture for innovation: time, money, palatial quarters. But they capitalised on none of it.
A culture of invention is not optimised for implementation.
Apple are always late to the party – late to the mp3 player, late to the smartphone, late to the tablet. This is a man who has made a business out of being late… The people who make all the money come along second or third, not first.
What are the reasons behind this paradox?
- It’s a lot easier to figure out technical solutions that what customers want. Xerox thought the computer was an office application, like their Xerox copiers that cost $400,000. It was not a stupid assumption. We did not know what the computer was for in 1970, least of all consumers. It took a few years to realise its consumer potential. Who gets the value of hindsight, or the learning curve? Steve Jobs.
- Mass strategy versus elite strategy. Why did the industrial revolution happen in England? England has some notable inventors but their real advantage lies in tweakers and innovators. Steam engines are measured in “duty,” or how much steam you get from the coal. Watt’s great achievement was to double a steam engine’s “duty.” Years later, tweakers incrementally improve it. They’re not geniuses. There are no statues of them in St Paul’s Cathedral. There were thousands of them in their garages and workshops, sharing ideas informally. They took a promising technology and transformed it into a transformational one. The person who was first gets all the glory; the value is extracted by the tweakers.
- Material circumstances. When it came to revolutionary military strategy, the two pioneers (Soviets and the USA) were rich with endless resources. The luxury to sit and think deeply. Billions of dollars for technology with no constraints. What about Isreal? they were incredibly constrained – not rich, and no time to to waste. They had just got their butts kicked in the Yom Kippur war. Yet they’re the ones who show how all these pieces fit together.
The National Cancer Institute cured four types of cancer that were thought to be incurable. They had no money. They took existing drugs and tweaked them. They were desperate, so they were forced to be creative and improvisational.
It is a lesson we’ve forgotten.
In the glory of being first, we have thrown resources at problems that might benefit from less, focused on a small about of geniuses when maybe what we need is tweakers and been in a hurry when we should be slow.
Maybe we don’t want to be the US. Maybe we want to be Israel.